Eczema, also known as dermatitis or atopic eczema, is a condition which causes inflammation of the skin, characterised by itching, redness and an outbreak of lesions. Some types of eczema skin disease can also cause blisters. It is a chronic condition and has a tendency to flare-up periodically. It is not a contagious disease; therefore it does not spread from one person to another. According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, eczema skin disease affects about 15% of children and 2% – 4% of adults.
Quick Facts on Eczema
- Eczema is a general term for any form of dermatitis or ‘itchy rash’
- Eczema can lead to various complications such as skin infections, sleep and behavioural problems among others
- Stress and other emotional disorders can aggravate eczema skin disease
- Skin eczema is a long-term disorder that tends to flare-up suddenly and then lessen
Eczema is a long-term or chronic inflammatory condition of the skin, causing itching, redness and lesions/eruptions on the skin. Skin eczema is mostly seen in children; however it can affect adults as well. Among infants, eczema generally tends to disappear by the age of three, but it may continue into adulthood for some people. The skin disease eczema affects both men as well as women.
Even though eczema is not a life-threatening condition, it can have a considerable impact on a person’s quality of life. Skin eczema is a painful, chronic condition that can cause extreme discomfort. The itching and the pain associated with eczema can disrupt sleep and also affect the performance of day-to-day activities. Skin disease eczema is believed to be contagious, which is completely untrue. Yet, if eczema rashes are visible to others, they often act as a cause of social isolation. This has a negative impact on the self-image and self-confidence of the person suffering from atopic eczema. According to a study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, adults with atopic eczema are more likely to develop depression and anxiety. An ideal eczema treatment also needs to focus on these aspects.
Types of Eczema
There are various types of eczema skin condition. Atopic dermatitis (scaly eruptions on skin) and contact dermatitis (eczema rash due to contact with allergens or irritants) are two of the most common forms of eczema. Others include seborrhoeic dermatitis (dandruff), exfoliative dermatitis (scaling and flaking on entire body), stasis dermatitis (eczema due to poor circulation), neuro-dermatitis (stress-related eczema) and nummular dermatitis (coin-shaped spots on skin).
Causes of Eczema
The causes of eczema vary from person-to-person. Eczema skin condition is usually a consequence of several factors working together, not just one factor in isolation. Some forms of skin eczema are triggered by irritant substances that come in contact with our skin, such as soaps, cosmetics, clothing, detergents, jewellery or sweat. Environmental allergens, such as exposure to poison ivy or other poisonous plants, may also cause an outbreak of atopic eczema. Certain ingredients in cosmetics or skin care products may cause an eczema rash. Changes in temperature, humidity or even psychological stress can lead to eczema flare ups.
Symptoms of Eczema
The symptoms of eczema skin condition depend upon the type of eczema. The general symptoms include itchy, scaling skin with a parched appearance. The skin may crack and turn red or inflamed, leading to infection. The acute form may sometimes manifest as a colourless, sticky fluid with crusts and scabs. This is called ‘wet’ or ‘weeping’ eczema. Eczema in infants often affects the face, diaper area, front of the knee and back of the elbow.
Phases of eczema skin condition may range from the symptoms getting worse to the symptoms getting better by themselves, which implicates an unpredictable course in several patients. However, early diagnosis and treatment can provide relief to patients from the associated symptoms of skin eczema.